Monday, October 27, 2014

Using Google Plus Circles to Build Your Small Business

Image courtesy of
So, What the Heck are Google Plus Circles, and What Do They Do?

Google Plus Circles are kind of like Twitter follows. If you Circle someone, you can see their posts, and if they Circle you, they can see your posts.

Some people think that they have to “Circle back” anyone who Circles them. But more isn’t necessarily better. First, Google limits you to Circling only 5000 people, and if 1,000,000 people Circle you, then what are you going to do? Second, more people you Circle, the less you can give them individual warm fuzzies.

So, I know this is a tough one for you extroverts, but you’re really better off only Circling the people who are actually fun and engage with you.

Google Plus Circles are ALSO how you organize the people that you follow into groups, so that your husband and boss don’t see the off-colored jokes you’re sharing with your College circle, and you aren’t boring your Bar Fly Circle friends with the promotional material you send to your customers.

One of the cool things about Circles is that if you’re perusing your stream and happen to catch a suspicious post from one of your kids, you could jump into that Circle, see what they and their friends are up to, and thwart their plans before they burn down the block.

Another cool thing about Circles is that if you add someone to a Circle, they get a notification that you Circled them, but they don’t see the name of the Circle you put them in. This means that you could set up a Circle titled “Annoying People Who Don’t Deserve the Time of Day”, dump in your brother-in-law, and in the real world, he would still think you’re a totally nice guy.

Pretty nice system, if you ask me.

Five Essential Business Circles That You Should Have

On a slightly more serious note, Google Plus sets up several Circles by default, but you can add, delete, or edit any of your Circles according to your needs. If you’re using Google Plus for business, Stephan Hovnanian suggests setting up the following Circles in Google Plus:

1. Brand advocates

Your brand advocates are your evangelists. They’re happy customers, fans, and other people who think the world of you, and they deserve some social love. Read their posts, give ‘em a +1 or a comment, or share their posts, and they’ll feel like kings and queens. Even better, the people in their Circles will see your activity, and they might want to check out your company or even hire you.

2. Team members

Your team members are often your best brand advocates, and they deserve the same kind of social love. Also, interacting with them acts as a gentle reminder that yes, Big Sister is watching, so please don’t advertise any sales that don’t exist or answer questions that you’re not sure about.

3. Industry or keyword influencers & bloggers

Influencers are the big kids on the block – the ones on whose coattails you’d love to catch a ride. You can learn a lot by watching what they do, and of course, building relationships with them (as long as you’re not acting like an annoying younger sibling) might just result in one of your posts getting shared with their (much bigger) network, or even get you written up in their blog. They might even let you drive their car.

4. Networking

Networking is where good old-fashioned, business-to-business “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” action happens. As Stephan Hovnanian puts it, “For example, if you are an IT recruiter, you could have a circle of IT bloggers that you notify when you have new positions you need to fill. They can, in turn, help get the word out. And of course, be sure to reciprocate whenever possible.”

5. Industry news

Out here on the ragged edge, things change quickly, and keeping up with the latest and greatest should be part of your daily task on Google Plus. Not only does it make you look cool, smart, and savvy, but it’s great stuff to share with your followers, to keep them up-to-date.

Tip: if you re-post a link, write an insightful or provocative introduction in your own words, so that the news has your brand identity associated with it.

So, how do you find people to Circle?

a. You can Circle people on the Suggested Users List (not my personal favorite -- ever had a computer pick your friends? That said, Google Plus DOES have good taste here and there.)

b. If you're Circled some people, you can prowl their profiles and Circle interesting-looking people in their network.

c. You can search for individual people or perform other searches (such as “social media”) and Circle the people who show up.

d. You can click on interesting Hashtags to see who else uses them.

e. You can peruse the comments on posts and Circle the people who write good ones, or Circle people who respond to your comments (one of my favorite techniques).

f. You can do the same thing with the comments in Hangouts on Air (another of my favorite techniques).

g. You can join Communities and meet people with similar interests (my absolute favorite technique).

Keep in mind that, if you’re doing this for your business, you should be targeting people who might be interested in your products or services.


Who knew that a simple people-organizing system could be so powerful? Enjoy exploring Google Plus Circles!

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Catharine Symblème, Small Business Evangelist
315 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

Social Media | Blogging | Content Creation | Local SEO
Bringing 21st Century Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Small Businesses

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why Google+ Is Better Than Facebook For Your Small Business

Photo courtesy of clasesdeperiodismo(CC ShareALike)
I'll be the first one to admit it: I'm a recovering Facebook addict.

Back in 2009 when I joined, Facebook was a great place to be. I got to reconnect with friends from high school and college and see how much gray hair and how many kids they had. I got to laugh at the funny pictures and have great conversations and play silly games with everyone.

And then the first election season happened.

And then I survived a super bowl.

And then I noticed more and more re-postings of awful pictures of abused dogs and children slaughtered by wars and people torturing babies with tattoos and rantings about how angry everybody was with Congress, because the unhappy posts were the ones that got the most attention.

And then Facebook started filtering its content according to whose posts were the most popular. Which meant, basically, those posts with the most Likes. Which in turn meant posts from the people with the most Friends, not the people with the most interesting content.

As a result, Facebook has become almost completely uninteresting to me, other than as a venue for messaging people one-on-one and getting seen on Google searches.

My personal feelings aside, Facebook is about people-drama. It's where you find pictures of weddings and graduations and sunsets and babies.

But Facebook is practically useless for business promotion unless you have an advertising budget. Up to 95% of all posts from a business page are hidden from your friends' news feeds without being "boosted".

From a business standpoint, IMHO, Facebook is a waste of time. The only reason that I use Facebook at all is because the locals with whom I do business haven't seen the G+ light yet.

Google Plus, on the other hand, is where I go to meet new people, to get exposed to fresh ideas and leading-edge thinking, and to network eyeball-to-eyeball via Hangouts with other business owners from all over the world. It's like being in a big city vs. being in a small town.

And it's easier to use.

And it gives you great Google juice for your page ranking.

And Google Plus has Hangouts On Air.

Hangouts On Air are the bees knees. They're like live streaming TV shows married to live chat. They're interactive. And it's all backed up to YouTube automatically so you can go catch the replay any time. Without commercials.

And the best part is, Hangouts are free.

Yes, free.

So, I'm a permanent Google Plus convert.

But don't just take my word for it. Check out this article:


By Sarah Burke

Every time that I’ve commented to friends and colleagues that I think Google+ is better than Facebook for small businesses, I’m met with incredulous glances.

“Better than Facebook??? Sarah, you cray cray.”

But I stand by it.

I think Google+ is better than Facebook for small businesses.Actually, I think it’s even going to be bigger than Facebook in a year or so.

And honestly? I’m surprised that it’s taking this long to catch on.

Let me tell you why.

Google+ was launched in June of 2011, as a “social layer” that enhances many of Google’s existing features, such as YouTube comments and Gmail. It also acts as a identity service, by interacting with Google’s other services so that content that users share and comment on are attached to the same account.

Many have considered Google+ as a “ghost town” of social media, but Google+ has been quick to respond to these rumours with their statistics and numbers.

Google has 540 million MAU who use at least one of Google+’s services, and out of that number, 300 million users are active “in the stream” (which basically means using Google+ as a social media platform by actually going to the content stream).

As of September 2014 Google+ is the 5th most popular social media platform on the internet. Ahead of it ranks Facebook at #1, Twitter at #2, LinkedIn at #3 and Pinterest at #4.

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Catharine Symblème, Small Business Evangelist
315 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

Social Media | Blogging | Content Creation | Local SEO
Bringing 21st Century Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Small Businesses

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Utter Moron's Guide to Getting Online is Live on Kindle!!

I'm excited to announce that my new eBook, The Utter Moron's Guide to Getting Online: Build and Maintain an Online Business Presence in 2 Hours a Day or Less is officially LIVE on Kindle!

Here's a preview: 

"Unless you’ve been living on a desert island – in which case your clients are giant tortoises and are unable to use the Internet due to their lack of fingers – I’ll bet that you’ve heard “do you have a website?” or “are you on Facebook?”
You might have been thinking to yourself, “one of these days, I’ve gotta get online.”
You may have even taken a stab at “getting online” in the past. Maybe you hired someone for a bazillion bucks to build you a professional-looking website with all the bells and whistles, or asked your neighbor’s teenager to do it for you in return for a lifetime supply of Mountain Dew (which, no doubt, resulted in something that looked like the Rocky Horror Picture Show on acid.)
Now, let me guess: you glanced at this website, scratched your head, pushed a few buttons, clicked on a few links, said to yourself, “well, that’s nice” and carried on with your life. Now, 10 years later, the website is still telling the public about your $5.99 Wednesday night club specials in Gunnison when you closed that restaurant six years ago, moved to Fort Collins, and started a bicycle shop.
You see, I’ll bet you have a secret.

I’ll bet that, deep down, you don’t have a clue as to what all of this “online” and “social media” stuff is all about, much less how on God’s green earth to do it.

Well, it’s okay. Your secret’s safe with me.

Tell you what.
If you can carve two hours a day out of your schedule for two weeks – 14 days – and you’re fairly comfortable using a computer – like, you can turn it on, point and click with a mouse, hunt for things in Google, type stuff in a word processor, and check your email – I’ll show you:
  • How to set up and configure a blog that doubles nicely as a business website.
  • How to set up and configure Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus business accounts.
  • How to set up and use Twitterfeed to automatically post updates from your website on your Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus feeds.
  • How to set up and use a service called Hootsuite that will take a lot of the repetition out of your day-to-day maintenance.
  • How to set up some online business listings (sort of like those yellow page ads in your phone book – except they’re free)
And in the process, I’ll teach you how to set everything up so that Google – and your customers – have the best chance humanly possible to find you.
By the time the 14 days are up, you’ll not look and sound totally cool, hip, and savvy with all the neato Internet jargon you’ve picked up, but you’ll have a complete, bonafide, basic business presence on the Internet, AND you will have begun to establish the habit of getting online and maintaining everything on a daily basis.
Think you can do that?
All right, then. C’mon, kid, lemme show you the ropes…"

Buy it from Amazon right here for $4.99: The Utter Moron's Guide to Getting Online

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Catharine Symblème, Small Business Evangelist
315 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

Social Media | Blogging | Content Creation | Local SEO

Bringing 21st Century Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Small Businesses

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why Small Businesses Are Losing On Social Media

photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc
By Meghan Casserly

Social media use is trending upward according to the survey of more than 1,235 small business owners, no surprise given the attention paid to the various social platforms by big businesses and media outlets. Nearly 50% have increased time spent on social media this year and nearly 55% say they’re using platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a primary tool for either acquiring new customers of generating sales leads.

It all sounds promising until this head-scratching result: despite their dedication and belief that social media is the Hail Mary of small business owners everywhere, more than 60% of small business owners say they haven’t seen any return on investment from their engagement online. None.

Social guru Ted Rubin isn’t surprised one bit—and says it’s because the small business community’s expectations of social media platforms, how they’re using them and the reality of the technology are simply way out of whack.

First up, if an expert or strategist tries to sell you on the notion that setting up a Facebook page or Twitter handle (or even a LinkedIn company page) will open the floodgates to an Internet’s worth of sales leads, they’re selling you some bad medicine. “It’s not going to cut it,” Rubin says. “Social actually can be a powerful lead generator,” Rubin says, but not in the way SBOs think. Jumping online to check in on Facebook once a day or posting current sales deals isn’t going to bring the business in. It just isn’t.

Read the full article on Forbes.

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Catharine Symblème, Small Business Evangelist
315 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

Social Media | Blogging | Content Creation | Local SEO
Bringing 21st Century Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Small Businesses

Monday, September 29, 2014

3 Totally Awesome Small Business Podcasts and a Google Hangout

photo credit: tranchis via photopin cc
I've become totally addicted to podcasts.

A half-hour podcast will take me through a bike ride with my dogs; two podcasts will keep me company for a five-mile run.

I don't commute anywhere in my car, but if I did, you'd better believe I'd be tuned in while on the road.

I've listened to Adam Smith, Hesse, Emerson, Thoreau, and Wattles thanks to's podcasts.

In short, podcasts basically rock the world.

Here are my current a bonus Google Hangout, just for good measure. (If you haven't checked out Google Hangouts yet, they're definitely the best part about Google Plus. Well worth signing up for!)

By the way, I fully intend to share even more awesome podcasts and Hangouts with you as I discover them, so stay tuned!

The Podcasts:

1. Paycheck to Passion Podcast

My absolute favorite podcast right now is Paycheck to Passion. Co-hosted by Jasper Blake and Meredith Eisenberg, "Paycheck to Passion" is a series of interviews of real-life entrepreneurs and small businesspeople who are out there alongside us in the trenches, learning, growing, making a living at what they love, and freely passing on their inspiration, knowledge, and stories. This podcast is very human, down-to-earth, and wonderfully personal and will leave you feeling inspired and thinking "Oh, my God, why didn't I think of that?"

2. Social Triggers Insider Podcast

Another favorite podcast is Social Triggers Insider. Derek Halpern is a keen observer of human psychology (and as a result is a brilliant sales guy), and his podcast features fascinating and entertaining interviews with other entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, small business owners, and fellow students of the human psyche. If you love marketing and human psychology, this is your podcast.

3. The Social Media Marketing Podcast

The Social Media Marketing podcast from Social Media Examiner with Michael Stelzner is for social media uber-geeks. It features interviews with the very hottest and hippest marketeers on the ragged and bleeding front lines of social media, and each podcast is so full of exciting tips and cool ideas it's difficult not to want to drop everything and go implement what you've just learned.

4. The Mia Connect Power Chat Google Hangout on Air

And finally, as promised, the Google Hangout of the Day: The Mia Connect Power Chat. Sometimes she interviews panels of social media or marketing power-hitters; sometimes she interviews individual business owners with incredible and inspiring stories...but every interview is conducted with heaping  helpings of heart, warmth, power, inspiration, entertainment, and downright silliness.

Okay, I've done my part. Now it's your turn: go discover podcasts, and through them connect yourself aurally with a whole world of other real, live, amazing, flesh-and-blood, human beings.

You'll wonder why you waited so long.


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Catharine Symblème, Small Business Evangelist
315 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

Social Media | Blogging | Content Creation | Local SEO
Bringing 21st Century Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Small Businesses

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pshhhhhht! I don't need a website!

photo credit: RTD Photography via photopin cc
The other day I ran into the owner of a charming little brick-and-mortar shop and told her that I found a great video that I wanted to share with her, but lost her business card and couldn't find her contact information online.

I asked her, "Do you have a website or anything"?

She responded, "Pshhht! I don't need one of those! Here's my email address..."

She rattled it off, and, of course I promptly forgot it.

There are those who would say, "You should have taken that opportunity to educate her, to tell her that word-of-mouth marketing has spread to the Internet and social media, and that she's missing out on a huge opportunity to reach out to new customers..." And so on and so forth.

And yeah, those people would be right; I could have take the time to do this. But in this case, I didn't.

You see, sometimes people kind of do a funny thing when you try to "educate" them. Instead of listening and learning, quite often they dig in their heels, put up their guard, and stop listening.

When I get a response like "Pshhhht! I don't need a website!", that tells me that this person isn't ready to listen.

It's sort of like catching a horse in a pasture. That horse knows you want to ride it, but it doesn't want to be ridden. So it's going to run away from you. And the faster you try to chase it, the faster it runs. You could spend hours playing this game, but because that horse is stronger and faster than you, it's always going to win.

But if you stop chasing that horse; if you turn your back, squat down, and start playing with sticks, or reach into your pocket for those apple snacks, guess what happens?

About 75% of the time, that horse is gonna get curious and come up to YOU to find out what's going on.

So the best thing to do with these folks is simply drop it and walk away.

Maybe, like that horse, they'll get curious after awhile and wonder what you're up to. Or maybe they won't. It's okay.

There are over seven billion people on the planet, and not all of them are going to be your clients.

If they were, you'd be really, really busy.

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Alamosa, CO 81101


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Bringing 21st Century Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Small Businesses

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Google Plus 101 for Business: How To Set Up a Google Plus Profile, Page, and Place, and Write Killer G+ Posts

What's Covered in This Post:  

1. Why You Need Google Plus
2. Creating a Google Plus Personal Profile
3. Making Your Google Plus Profile a Digital Business Card
4. Creating a Google Plus Business Page
5. Claiming a Google Plus Local Page
6. Posting on Google Plus

1:  Why Google Plus is a Must-Have 

If you want to get your website onto that coveted first page of a Google search for your product, then Google Plus is one of your greatest allies.


a. Google loves Google. This means that Google loves it when you use their products. Google Plus, Google Places, Google Business Page, Google Maps, Google Translate, Gmail…the more Google tools you use, the better they like it.

b. Social signals. Facebook Likes, Twitter Favorites, Google +1s -- are being taken more seriously by Google as indicators that a site offers quality, relevant content to searchers. It makes Google look good when they can direct an Internet user to a good site, and the more quality content Google can direct its users to, the more likely those users are going to come back and use Google again.

c. According to GlobalWebIndex, 25% of worldwide Internet users are now using Google Plus, which means a chunk of your customers are using it, too.

d. Hangouts. But we’ll get to that in Google Plus 201.

2:  Create a Basic Personal Profile 

a. Go to If you have a Gmail or other Google app account, Google will sign you in automatically (It’s kind of creepy – but it also saves you having to remember a bunch of passwords, which is nice). If not, click “Create an account” at the bottom of the page to set up a Gmail account.

b. You will be taken to a screen called “Create a new Google account”. Go ahead and follow the on-screen instructions to fill this in.

c. When you have set up an account with Google, click “Finish” to sign into Google +. 

d. When you first log into Google+ you will need to set up a profile to get the best out of the utility. Click on Create Profile.

e. Complete your personal information and a username that everyone will see. Click “Upgrade”

f.: On the next page, Google+ will ask you if you want to add anyone that it thinks you might know to your friends list. For now, just skip over this step by clicking “Continue”. 

g. The next page then ask you if you want to follow other pages that might interest you. Again, for now just skip over this step by clicking “Continue” and “Continue anyway”.

h. If you have a photo, now is the time to upload it to your profile. Otherwise, skip this step by clicking “Continue”.

i. For now, skip over the part about where you went to school or where you work and click “Finish”.

j.  In the upper right corner, click on your logo and click “Add Account” 

3:  Make Your Profile into a Digital Business Card

I can't say it any better than Gerry Moran at
Infographic from

4:  Create Your Google+ Local Business Page

Now that you have a personal profile on Google Plus, you can set up a Local Business Page.

1. Click "Home" to the upper left of your profile page:

2. Select "Pages" from the menu that drops down:

3. Click “Get your page” 

4. Choose your business type

5. Depending on what kind of business you choose, the next steps are going to be different. Take some time at this point and really fill out the information as completely as you can. Include hours of operation, complete contact information, location, logos, menus if appropriate, etc.

6. Tips:
  • If you’re local, use every opportunity to include location-specific keywords, such as San Luis Valley, Colorado, Alamosa, etc.
  • Make your business page as visually appealing as possible with logos and photos. Especially photos of you. People like knowing who they’re doing business with.
  • Think about your branding. What do you want to be known for? What colors do you want people to associate with you?

Posting on Google Plus

Posting for your business is a little different from just posting for fun, whether it’s on Google Plus or any other social media channel, because you want to do more than just entertain your friends. You want to establish yourself as an authority in your field, create and nurture relationships with current and prospective clients, and maximize the possibility of Google’s search engine finding you. 

How to create a kick-ass business post on Google Plus

1. Go to the “Share what’s new” box in your Home stream:

2. Add an image.

You should ALWAYS include an image or photo in social media posts, unless you’re sharing a link, in which case Google Plus chooses an image for you.
  • Click on the “Photos” icon
  • On the popup box, either drag and drop or upload a photo from your computer, or select a photo from your Google+ photos. Keep in mind that the higher the resolution of your photo, the bigger it will appear in Google Plus

(NOTE: Google Plus also allows you to use animated gifs! Just upload them like you would any other image. Check out for freebies.)

  • Edit your image if you like, using the Auto Enhance, Add Text or Rotate Right icons

You can also share a link, browse for a YouTube video, or create an Event from the “Share What’s New” box.

4. Write your text
Google Plus will allow you to write long posts, and many Plussers actually use their posts as mini-blog posts. If you write a long post, make sure to break up your text with plenty of white space, numbers, and other formatting that will make your post easy to skim.

5. Format your text
Yes, unlike Facebook (oops, did I just say the F-word?), Google Plus will actually allow you to do a little basic FORMATTING, which is one of my favorite features.  Here’s how:

To bold, enclose your text in *asterisks*
To italicize, enclose it in _underscores_
To strikeout, enclose it in –hyphens-

6. Create a great post title or headline
Titles and headlines carry a heavy load in the online world – yes, even in social media. Not only do headlines have to distract people with the attention spans of goldfish into reading your post, they have to grab Google’s attention as well. It’s worthwhile spending some time crafting really great headlines.

Here’s two things to think about when creating a headline:

For Google: The Almighty Keyword is King
Google is always on the prowl for keywords, so if you’re posting something about railroads on Google Plus, you’ll want to include the word “railroad” in your post title. The closer to the beginning “railroad” appears, the better, and if you can squeeze your keywords into your Google Plus post a few times as well, awesome.

If you have a local business, also make sure that your headline includes local keywords if possible, such as “San Luis Valley”, “Colorado”, or “Alamosa”.

For Audiences: Go for Emotions
Marketers have known for a long time that emotionally-laden words get more attention than neutral words. A post titled “Warning: Peanut Butter Cookie Porn Ahead” is going to get more attention than a post titled “My Favorite Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe”.

One final thing: Make sure that headline is in *bold*!

Want some great headline ideas? Go to Boost Blog Traffic and download Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks. You’ll need to sign up for his newsletter – but believe me, his newsletter is well worth signing up for. You won’t regret it.

Also, here’s a great online toy for evaluating your headline’s emotional impact

7. Tag any +Plussers who are helping you out.
If you want to express appreciation for another Plusser, you can tag them by typing +theirname (no spaces).  If you tag them, they’ll get a notification about that tag, and most likely they’ll come read your post, because people like reading nice things about themselves.

(If your post isn’t nice, consider sending that person a private message instead.)

For example, “Thanks to +JohnDoe for helping me edit my new ebook, “Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: Transitioning from Employee to Entrepreneur in the 21st Century”.

8. Use #hashtags
Google Plus supports hashtags, and just like keywords, hashtags are great for helping Google and readers find you. In the example above, I might use the hashtags #entrepreneur and #success at the end of the post, probably on a separate line, like this:

“Thanks to +JohnDoe for helping me edit my new ebook, ‘Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: Transitioning from Employee to Entrepreneur in the 21st Century’.
#entrepreneur #success

Just make sure your hashtag is relevant to your content, and don’t use more than maybe four or five hashtags; otherwise, your post looks spammy – and Google thinks so, too.

Not sure what hashtag to use? Here’s a great site for getting hashtag ideas and finding out your hashtag's popularity. 

9. Select who you want to see your post

Choose from “Public”, “Your Circles”, “Extended Circles” another Circle, or a Community you’re a member of.

10. Decide whether to email your post to everybody

You can do this by clicking the check box next to “Also send email to [NameOfGroup]”.
(Honestly, I’ve been too chicken to try this yet; I’d be VERY careful!)

For some great ideas on things to post about, check out this article from Social Media Examiner:


As you can see, Google Plus, and its sisters Google Business Pages and Google Plus Local Pages are a powerful combination of applications that work together to get your small business visible on Google searches – and in front of the eyeballs of potential customers.

Stay tuned for Google Plus 201, in which I’ll be covering Google Plus strategies, Hangouts, Communities, Ripples, +1s, and other cool Google Plus stuff. 

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Symblème Services Online
315 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

Social Media | Blogging | Content Creation | Local SEO
Bringing 21st Century Word-of-Mouth Marketing to the San Luis Valley